Dr. LB Wish Dating Advice

Many of us have probably heard the word “mindfulness,” but what does it mean? And more importantly, why should I bother?

Obviously, I think it’s important, otherwise I wouldn’t be mentioning it. So, I’ll start by attempting a definition. Mindfulness is the conscious process of learning about you by being aware of your physiological and emotional sensations in the moment.

The impact of fine-tuning your awareness of bodily sensations on your wellness is the focus of researchers such as Olga Pollatos, the head of the health psychology department in Germany at the University of Ulm. She’s studying how developing a reliable body feedback system can reduce your susceptibility to depression, anxiety and mood swings. An added benefit is that this mindfulness increases control over your emotions and your mental health in general.

You’re also able to sense a wider and deeper range of emotions without panicking because you are better at interpreting your bodily cues accurately and then making assessment and behavioral corrections.

So, what does this have to do with dating? Well, wouldn’t you like to have a swifter and more reliable feedback system between your body and your brain about whether you can detect if a person is making you feel anxious, frightened, doubtful or happy? Wouldn’t you like to recognize and heed warnings that you should slow down and not leap for love so quickly?

Here are some tips to help you harness the information that your body and brain send you all the time.

Awareness Techniques to Help You Hold Back on Rushing Love

1. Accept that your brain, body and mind are inseparable.
 This connection creates an opportunity for you to sense and understand your physical reactions such as increases in heart rate and perspiration. You might ask yourself, for example, when your heart races: “Am I feeling frightened or excited?”

It’s not fair, of course, that an elevated heart rate can alert you to something that could be either good or bad for you. That job is the responsibility of your mind to sense your body’s reactions and your situation so that you can then know whether to run in fear, become wary of a person or lean in for that first kiss.

People who work on developing a strong feedback system between the body and brain have greater control over their behavior and avoid risky behavior—such as falling for a very wrong person!

Look at this Cookie cartoon. Cookie has only been dating this man for a very short time. Yet, the thumping music, the power of the crowd and the excitement of being on a date with a seemingly decent man have all conspired to scrambling Cookie’s interpretation of her feelings. If she were more adept at mindfulness, she would know to be suspicious of her aroused feelings and to hold back on rushing love. But look at the weakness in her self-control and clarity.

Almost Smart Cookie

2. Develop awareness of your pulse or heart rate. An easy way to increase your mind-body awareness is to focus on your heart rate. If possible, place your index and middle fingers across your upturned wrist to feel your pulse. Does it seem fast? If you have a watch with a second hand, you can count how many beats you feel in fifteen seconds.

You can also go to the rest room, stare into the mirror and either place your hand on your heart or those two fingers across you wrist. Graduate student Vivien Ainley at the Royal Holloway University in London is studying how to train people to be more aware of their sensations, reports that looking in the mirror helps you concentrate enough to detect your heart rate. You can learn more about her research and the work of others by going to the August 27, 2013, online Wall Street Journal article, “Researchers Study Self-Knowledge (Literally).”

As you get better at detecting your heart rate, then move on to focusing on your level of perspiration and the rhythm and depth of your breathing.

3. Know your situation ahead of time. Remember, a racing heart can be a sign of either positive excitement or warnings of danger. So how do you know the difference? I strongly suggest you make a chart. In the first column list the event. You might write “First date with an incredible person.” Or, “Third date with this incredible person.”

In the second column, on a scale of one to ten, with ten the highest, rate your perceived level of excitement. In the third column write why you are so excited. Be sure to list good and bad reasons. For example, you might write any or all of the following:

  • “I haven’t been out with someone who is a decent match for me in a long time.”
  • “I want to prove to myself—and my recent ex–that I can attract a really great person.”
  • “I’m lonely or getting older.”
  • “I’m going through or just came through a really bad time such as financial, health or career issues in me or my family.”
  • In the next column write what you are most afraid you will do. Typical fears include:
  • “I’m afraid I’ll talk too much about myself and my problems.”
  • “I’m afraid I’ll grill this person so I won’t be blindsided again.”
  • “I’m afraid I’ll end up rushing sex.”

Finally, in the last column write what you will do to prevent these behaviors. Examples are:

“I’ll make a list of questions ahead of time of things I want him or her to know about me. I’ll even make it fun and ask the person to tell me funny or important things. But I will not tell my whole story. I will reveal one or two smaller things about me.”

“I’ll go into the rest room to slow down, take a breath, feel my heartbeat, and tell the person that it is too soon to go back to one of our places. I don’t need to jump so quickly. I’m a good and lovable person.”

4. Pay attention to your body language as well as his or hers. Continue to have a “third eye” on your body language. Are your legs shaking? Are picking your nails or playing with your wine glass? What feelings can you pair with your actions? Keeping in touch with you helps you calm down, slow down and learn.

Also observe the body language of your date. Is the person leaning too far back, an indication of guardedness and, paradoxically, of self-importance? Or, is the person leaning into your space? This behavior might signal a need to dominate. The body gives off so many signals that are too long to list here. I recommend that you read a book about body language. I like the ones by Tonya Reiman.

5. Stay in a mindfulness mode. You will probably tend to forget to observe you, but over time the process will feel more natural.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D, MSS, MA, is a nationally recognized psychologist and licensed clinical social worker, specializing in women's issues in love, life, work, and family. Sign up on her website, http://www.lovevictory.com, to receive free advice, blog, cartoon, and information about her two upcoming research-based, self-help books for women: The Love Adventures of Almost Smart Cookie-a cartoon, self-help book and Smart Relationships. You can follow Dr. Wish on Twitter.